Fishing industry 'on course to lose £300m post-Brexit' fishermen's trade body claims

Government promises that the fishing industry would benefit to the tune of tens of millions of pounds from Brexit has been challenged by analysis by a fishermen’s trade organisation, which says it will make multi-million pound losses every year instead.

Kirkella is currently fishing in international waters off Norway

York-based National Federation of Fisherman’s Organisations said the industry could lose as much as £300m by 2026, unless changes are secured through international fisheries negotiations by the Government.

The NFFO commissioned former Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs fisheries negotiator Gary Taylor to crunch the figures using official data to create a “Brexit Balance Sheet”, in the absence of one from the Government.

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The Government disputes the £300m figure.

First mate Charlie Waddy, from Hull, on board Kirkella

Chief executive Barrie Deas said the best opportunity in years to boost the sector had been “squandered”, He said: “From reviewing these findings, the NFFO’s conclusion is that there are very few winners and a great many losers.

“These figures suggest that the bulk of the UK fishing fleet is on a trajectory to incur losses amounting to £64 million or more per year over the timeframe of this analysis, meaning that, unless changes are secured through international fisheries negotiations, the industry will have lost in excess of £300 million by 2026.

“The best opportunity in a generation to revive the UK’s fishing industry and support our coastal communities has been squandered and we must act swiftly to learn from these lessons and support the sector in future negotiations.”

UK Fisheries, which operates Hull’s last distant water trawler Kirkella, said they were “60 per cent down” on what they had been able to catch previously.

The £52m state-of-the-art trawler is currently catching redfish in international waters off Norway, but chief executive Jane Sandell said after talks between the Government, Norway, Greenland and the Faroes ended without a deal the year had been spent “eking out opportunities”.

She said the hardest part was explaining to crews why they are not going to sea so often, and why not as much money is coming in.

She said: “We would be normally fish throughout the year and be looking at eight or nine trips - we are on the fourth. We started late and will finish early. This will be the last trip (for the year). Inevitably it means the guys are 60 per cent down on income.”

Ms Sandell said a handful of boats, mostly Scottish boats going after mackerel and herring had benefitted - leaving 5,876 others “sharing a loss”.

The shellfish fleet from Bridlington is not affected by quotas, but red tape for export to their main markets in Europe was costing around £66 per tonne.

She said: “It has significantly increased the cost, not just for the vessels but the people who are buying from the vessels which are small businesses.”

Trilateral talks between the EU, UK and Norway to agree joint stocks begin within weeks. She said: “I hope for my guys on board they sort something out.”

Defra said they did not recognise the £300m figure.

A spokesperson said: “We have greater shares of fishing quota, and the total value of UK-EU fishing opportunities for the UK in 2021 is approximately £333 million – an increase of £27 million on last year. We have agreed a quota exchange mechanism and recently announced the first investment from our £100 million UK Seafood Fund to boost science and innovation in the industry.”